Semen, Film, and Story-telling: History as Media in Reactions in Bolaño’s “Prefiguration of Lalo Cura”

by on Oct.01, 2012



I wrote a draft of this post a while ago, didn’t publish it, and forgot about it; but  Johannes’ post, “The Violent Pollution”:  Carl-Michael Edenborg’s Parapornography  made me decide to bring the draft back to life, to get it involved in this conversation I’m excited about.

The following passage from Edenborg’s essay is where I saw the connection between Parapornography and my reading of “Prefiguration of Lalo Cura” by Roberto Bolaño.

“The moving images of bodies that rubbed against bodies broke away from the games of identification and projection and moved into a new productivity. It was no longer his penis, her vagina, his sperm, her sighs, her breasts, his buttocks. There were anemones, surfaces without inside, uneven condensations of information and time…they were more real than the homogeneous phantasms that usually accompanies the bloating of the sexual organs, the materials of pornography.”

What I find interesting in this passage and another sentence Johannes quoted– it [Parapornography] can “extract endless excitement from the same skin flap” — is the recognition that there are “more” than the materials/ elements that compose a pornography in Parapornography.  However this sense of “more” is different from  transcendence in the sense of “the sculpture of Madonna is more than  a block of marble” ; what creates this sense of “more” is not that there is something sublime that cannot be fully represented above the materials, but that these materials/elements are in undulation, or if I am to put it in the word I used for my original draft “motions of reaction”.

This sense of “there is more” is what I was feeling while reading “Prefiguration of Lalo Cura”  by Roberto Bolaño, a story  in which all the material are in undulation, movements of reaction; the three primary materials that I see in undulation  are these three: Semen, Film, and Story-telling.



(As much as I want to start with Semen and Film, I need to start with Story-telling, how the story is told in a way that keeps all these materials in motion. )

Although “Prefiguration…” first appears to be told in first person point of view, which usually puts the story in the motion of linear unfolding (like David Copperfield “I am born”), the story is in the motion of  constant undulation, movements of reactions. You can see its fluid body from the very first sentence where the narrator starts telling the story.

“It’s hard to believe, but I was born in a neighborhood called Los Empalados: The Impaled.”

Instead of creating a “solid” and “believable” world that conventional fiction aspires to create, the narrator whispers disbelief into the opening of the story, which puts the world in destabilized state, not quite believable, not quite existing. With this disbelief, the readers are positioned awkwardly on the boundary between inside and outside of this world, staring at this precarious spectre that undulates between this disbelief and name (name usually gives some anchoring to credibility, to existence) .

This unsettling disbelief in the first sentence destabilizes the world even further: By stating “it’s hard to believe”, this sentence does not specify to whom this disbelief belongs (if the disbelief is narrator’s the sentence would have been “I cannot believe”; if the reader’s “it must be hard for you to believe”). However, there is no direction or origin for this disbelief; it is just “It’s hard to believe”. It is as if the viewer/audience of this world/story is a conjoined “(narrator)I” and “reader”; a fluid landscape of vision/media without inside (like the anemone image Edenborg gives us).

The movement of undulation goes on in the next sentence:

“The name opens a way through the dream with its horn, and man follows that path. A quaking path. Invariably harsh. The path that leads into or out of Hell. That’s what it all comes down to. Getting closer to Hell or farther away.”

This description of the path “leads into or out of hell” also disrupts the sense of direction of a story  by making the direction non-existent and/or irrelevant. It does not matter if the path leads into or out of hell. It is the  vibration that creates the world/story rather than the direction, a story arc, two dimensional world of linearity.

This motion of undulating disbelief and vibrating non-direction is an interesting one, especially considering that the narrator, Lalo Cura, speaks of seeing and hearing about his mother and father, something that could be called his origin. If the story is about Lalo tracing the origin, there should have been a direction, a direction towards finding out about the “truth” of his parents, and each clue that he finds (the rumor about his father being a renegade priest, the photograph of his mother, the pornography in  which his mother stars) would have been merely a stable substance bringing him closer to this truth, the stable core.   However, these clue in form of various media, rather than to lie still like evidences in detective stories, vibrates, further destabilizes, react with each other.



Semen, Film, and Story-telling

 “my father was a  renegade priest”, speaks Lalo, his story based on the rumor he heard.  It is a rumor/(suspicious) story that Lalo heard that sets motion to the story that he tells about his father rather than the fact or substance. This father is another spectre in motion, supposedly being a renegade priest who stirred up the( enclosed system of )whorehouses and left. This mystery father that never reappears is a pure motion that exists in the story, the motion that started the existence/motion of narrator.

The semen, substance that could have been an authentic evidence to the idea of stable origin becomes destabilized as we find out the mother stars in various pornography, or rather, we watch Lalo Cura recounting watching the pornography in which his mother stars.  There are dizzying description of numerous pornography, in which there are gratuitous thrusting and vibrating that does not procreate (which often thought to be the goal of sex, an arriving point ), the pure motion that does not create substance. The mother, already pregnant with the narrator at the time is participating this act of fornication for the visual, repetitive motions (Here we come back to Parapornography).

The narrator, as if to encourage this motion, goes on to talk about the industry of pornography production. He speaks of various genres of pornography operating on different types of sexual fantasies (such as lacto-porn), which further diminishes/destabilizes the authenticity the pornographic films of his mother as evidence of his origin. In this production of pornography, semen, fake milk that appears to spills out of his mothers’ breasts, film reel that turns and turns, the demand for the pornography, sexual fantasies of the audience become one vibrating body.

And that is what Lalo has, these vibrations, unstable media in relay and reactions.

Thus it makes sense that the story closes not with his mother or his father, but Peajarito Gomez, the main male actor in the pornographic films with Lalo’s mother, the one who “vibrates” constantly, another material/media in the motion of reactions.  This is when it becomes clear that Lalo does not start the story or arrive conclusion; he is drawn to this vibration, being one of the media– as the story teller– in this motions that is world/story/being.

The way “Prefiguration of Lalo Cura” contains these motions of innumerable media colliding, relaying, reacting, the totality of it gives me the vision of History–  written, told, photographed, videotaped, inscribed in insects and more.

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10 comments for this entry:
  1. James Pate

    A really intriguing post. This is one of my favorite stories by Bolano — shadowy, wrecked, monstrous, and yet weirdly understated. I think of it almost as being a short film, one by Maddin or Jack Smith, almost as if the story wants us to see it in other mediums, the “innumerable media” you discuss.

    The zombie story in The Secret of Evil is similar. It’s cinematic in the same way some people call certain films “literary.”

    And I like the line : “Instead of creating a “solid” and “believable” world that conventional fiction aspires to create, the narrator whispers disbelief into the opening of the story, which puts the world in destabilized state, not quite believable, not quite existing.” That world of the “not quite existing” seems to haunt a lot of Bolano, as if the edges of many scenes are already being eaten away by dreams or nightmares.


  2. Lucas de Lima

    Here’s a good crash course on Lalo throughout Bolaño’s oeuvre with some speculation about his father:

    Also his name itself is unstable, undulating, and collisive, “la locura” meaning “the madness” and “cura” meaning “cure” as well as “priest”!

  3. rawbbie

    1. The way Bolaño writes sex is remarkably different. It’s not erotic, not biological, certainly not romantic, and almost always has a voyeur. Sex for Bolaño is never covered, but always uncovered.

    2. The existence of the voyeur is probably the biggest defining characteristic of pornography: it’s not porn unless there’s a watcher, a camera, a documenter.

    3. Lalo is my second favorite character of Bolaño. I named my cat after him. My first favorite is Luscious Skin, though, a cat named Luscious isn’t as cool as a cat named “The Madness”

  4. Joyelle McSweeney

    Jiyoon, excellent post, exciting! We are discussing this story in our seminar on Anachronism and Contemporaries today. The destabilization of birth as the beginning of the narrative means two things– it creates suspense and it also means that something can be ‘born’ at any moment, like the incredible vibrations that are inexplicably ‘born’ from Parajito’s skin, from the surface of porn film. Porn film causes semen to fly out and saturate seats and screens. The whole world is becoming unproductively pregnant with itself, with death, with half the information it needs to propagate. Then it shakes and cums again. This fructification and impalement cant be gathered back up into mommy-daddy time. IT’s just spewing everywhere, leaking fake milk, making a film, covering the film with its milk… “Pajarito Gómez emanated prostatic fluid!”

  5. Joyelle McSweeney

    This reminds me of Kim Hyesoon’s Road to Kimp’o Landfill, where birth is both a wildly distributed affair and also a kind of gravestone inscription only, held till the poem’s final couplet. The last part of the poem reads:

    A forest gave off a foul smell, carried contagious diseases
    It burned of fever during the night
    A busboy at brightly lit Motel Rose
    threw out millions of sperm every night
    From the forest, mosquitoes swarmed
    and dug into my scrawny caved-in chest
    Born in the 20th century, I was on my way
    To die in the 21st century

  6. Jiyoon

    @ James: Yes! I like the the films connection that you are making & this particular description of yours: “if the edges of many scenes are already being eaten away by dreams or nightmares.” Your description makes me think about Inland Empire by David Lynch, how the movie is constantly undulating between the moments that seem like “reality” (filmed with less-stable/smooth camera movement that suggests handheld camera that is often confused with direct(non-mediated) vision that observes “reality” ; the actors in their “real life” that appears to be outside the scene/not being filmed) and “film (the movie the characters are producing)/artifice”. It makes sense that as the story progresses the film turns into a hallucination where reality and fantasy/artifice all are violently vibrating together. The film itself distorts and burns away/eaten away in one of the scenes (it is important to note that this is one of the first Lynch’s movie in digital I think, which makes things even more complicated).

  7. Jiyoon

    @Lucas: woah that’s really cool. thanks for the link.I like how hallucination, magical-thinking creep back up even through something that I considered to be stable,such as names!
    @Rawbbie: your point about voyeurism is a really good one; voyeur requires that one’s vision is in both state of visible and invisible. it reminds me of Kim Kiduk’s Bad Guy ( ) where the camera’s vision oscillate between voyeuristic protagonist’s vision and “reality”, what is actually happening.

  8. Jiyoon

    @Joyelle yes I love that line “Pajarito Gómez emanated prostatic fluid!”! I also meant to mention how Pajarito expands into the room and to the world in the part that describes him as “mineral”, “Stonelike ” and his “prick” “transparent”. This moment reminds meof Zurita’s poem in purgatory (this one is available online ) in which the infinite desert, its oppressive vastness turns transparent (absent-present); metastability/acting as both solid and fluid, pregnant with death.

  9. Kim

    off bolano, still, speaking of colliding medias and the parapornographic. sonofdaddy’s new tumblr installation is a complete glitchgasm (with unicorn mouse pointer!)

  10. Megan Milks

    Jiyoon, thanks for this post! I like how you describe Bolaño’s conjoining of the reader and narrator as “a fluid landscape of vision/media without inside.” W/r/t vision (and voyeurism) – totally. Reading this story you can’t get away from all the eyeballs. They’re everywhere! And while you all are um, vibrating all around and across this piece, I’m still stuck on the riveting image of Lalo’s fetal eyes gazing at/into Pajarito’s worm prick. Your comment above about Zurita’s desert made me think more about P’s prick rubbing/being rubbed by Lalo’s eyes – momentarily conjoining – the prick becoming eyeball, translucent, semisolid, in its encounter with Lalo’s organ of vision. And vice versa — Lalo “crying his eyes out” upon seeing the (a) film – a kind of cumming, perhaps, the gush somewhat in opposition (or not?) to Pajarito’s more constant prostatic fluid. In any case, yes, what a stunningly weird site (sight? :/) of parapornographic activity.